The fact that it was a long time ago can be confirmed not just with the ages of fictional children, but by simply watching old episodes and checking out Rachel's hair or Monica's crop tops and high-waisted jeans. The style. Oh, we thought it was cool, but as often happens when you look back at your past, you find yourself shaking your head in dismay: "What were we thinking?"
I shake my head in the same way when I think back on my past running attire: "What in the world was I thinking?" I've been running almost my entire adult life, and those early years are positively cringeworthy.
Now, I'm not saying it's anything as horrific as mall bangs or pinch-rolled jeans (though I did rock those styles in elementary school) or even the "Rachel" hairdo. But, I still can't help mentally chiding my younger running self. "There's something better out there for you, young Amy. I swear it!"
Although in my younger self's defense, I truly don't think the running community was seen as a big consumer group, thus not nearly the choices or technology of today.
See, in the running of my youth, I did it almost completely gear free. I'm not talking naked running. (Though I have heard there are races where you can do that. You won't ever find me in one of those, by the way.) I'm talking about running without all the accouterments that I absolutely require now.
Seriously, when I look back at what I used to run in ... wow. Just wow. I used to run in an old pair of baggy Umbros (Do you remember those shorts, or, am I just dating myself here?) and a cotton sports bra with a large cotton t-shirt. And, did I mention that I used to try to run with a discman? Yeah, that was cool. (I believe I was listening to the Live: Throwing Copper CD as I did it.) I mean, really. I could not have made running look less stylish.
Slowly, as I got older and more knowledgeable about all things running (and, dare I say, running-related clothing got more technical and available for the masses), I discovered the amazingness that is sweat-wicking fabric. This fabric, it wicks sweat away from your skin. Self-explanatory, but still amazing. You mean your t-shirt doesn't have to weigh 10 pounds at the end of a run in the heat of August?!? That's crazy talk.
I began to pick up tips as I looked around at what other people were wearing during races or heard from other running friends. Wait, sweat-wicking socks stop blisters? No way. Gotta get me some of those.
Shorts or skirts that don't ride up causing that ever-horrible chub rub? Yeah, definitely gotta get those.
Shoes that cost more than $40? Wow, that makes such a difference. Gotta get me some real running shoes, too.
Now, my running-related gear takes up more than half of my drawer space, and my closet floor is covered in running shoes. I'm not a big snob when it comes to running clothes, though. I have been perfectly happy with my Target-brand tank tops, but have splurged on a couple skirts and tops. I recently got a down-filled skirt from lululemon to keep my butt, let's not say warm, but significantly less numb, during those cold winter runs.
Usually, you'll find me in a mish-mash of brands and price points, from Target to Nike to Athleta to Adidas to lululemon. But I'm not always super matching. I leave that to my much more stylish running friends. I'm apparently still the schmuck behind the really stylish girls. But, hey, at least I'm not in Umbros.
|On the right: Me in my mish-mash of clothes from Target, lululemon, Costco, Nike and Underarmor at the Battle of the Bean 5K last month. I'm not as stylish as everyone else, but it's an improvement over the first picture, no?|
However, the one piece of gear that has changed my life most significantly as a runner, has been my (drum roll please ... ) Garmin.
Six years ago, in what I consider my best birthday present ever, my husband gave me a Garmin watch. I'm not kidding you when I say that I have worn this thing more than anything else I own (save my wedding ring).
When I first started running, I ran by myself (in that dreaded cotton t-shirt) up and down the same stretch of streets. See, I could only estimate my distance based on my car's ability to drive my path. Then I moved to Olathe and learned that certain distances between major streets and between numbered streets equaled a mile, so I was able to mix it up slightly, but still I was fairly limited. I did somehow manage to train for a marathon on this antiquated distance measuring, so it did work. Just not as amazingly as my Garmin.
It's like a whole world opened up to me. I could run through neighborhoods and on trails and still know EXACTLY how far I had run. I could look down and see my pace to know if I needed to kick it into gear or slow down a bit. I could even do speedwork without having to attempt to remember the time of each lap from my regular watch. I could do so much more.
But, it also a opened a whole new way for me to be obsessive. I know many of my running friends will laugh as they read this, but I am one of those people who runs up and down the street to turn a 5.94 mile run into a 6-miler. I just can't do it. I can't leave it so close and not finished. I just can't.
And after years of simply uploading my data onto my personal computer at the end of every run, I have now discovered the world of online training record-keeping and social networking. Now, I can upload my runs for all my friends to see and comment on. And for me to comment about my friends' runs. And, yes, I realize the irony of getting out from in front of the computer to run only to get right back on to talk about it. But, that is the world we live in.
By the way, I'm AmyLafferty on dailymile, so look me up, I love having other running friends on there!
So, as great as I think my gear is now, I can only imagine what it will be in a couple years. I'll probably look back at myself and think, "Can you believe I used to wear a watch instead of having this chip implanted in my head? How silly I was back then!" Oh, and Monica and Chandler's twins will probably have twins of their own by then. Then, I'll really feel old.